Chicago Blackhawks prospects Blake Hillman and Ian Mitchell are set to defend their NCAA title this year at the University of Denver
Culture in sports has a unique relationship with prestige. We often hear words like storied, historic and traditional used to describe teams with winning cultures (like the recent Chicago Blackhawks), but you can only truly experience prestige by feeling it. And there are more ways than one to do so.
Tuesday afternoon, I walked through the halls of Magness Arena, the sports complex on campus of the University of Denver where the Pioneers play hockey. Everywhere I looked, there was an item with historical significance. Trophies, memorabilia and statues lined the hallways down to the ice level where the team was taking its 2017-18 photo.
As I walked the tunnel underneath the concourse, my eyes glossed over motivational quotes and DU emblems, just as those of every hockey player do on his way to a game. I felt inspired in the short time it took me to get where I needed to go.
As the players flocked from the locker room to the ice, laughter filled the air. The Pioneers sported pure white jerseys that weren’t stained with the blood and sweat from last year’s championship run. But there’s plenty of time for new decor this season.
Many of the reporters were asking for interviews with players like Team USA’s Troy Terry and Florida Panthers first-round draft selection Henrik Borgstrom, but my interests today were elsewhere. I asked for Blackhawks prospects Blake Hillman and Ian Mitchell, who I got to see over the summer at prospect camp. I had a lot of follow-up questions for them, and I was excited to get to know them a little more as people.
After speaking with both guys, I was humbled with their level of professionalism. It wasn’t their first time talking to a reporter, although they probably didn’t know it was my first time talking to players. They were both thorough, honest and excited to be a part of this Pioneers team.
All week, I have been attending seminars at Denver Startup Week where business leaders and executives talk about their experiences with startups. Most of them now head venture capitalist firms that have new business concepts presented to them on a daily basis. The piece of advice that they emphasized is that they don’t invest in ideas, they invest in people.
This concept of investing in people made a lot of sense to me when I was interviewing Hillman and Mitchell. Both are great young kids and they have the integrity to succeed at a very high level. I now see from a personal point of view why the Blackhawks’ front office selected these gentlemen out of a sea of hockey players.
I hope you enjoy these interviews as much as I enjoyed speaking with Blake and Ian.